RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- A group of Arab intellectuals and lawyers has urged Saudi authorities to immediately release 10 people arrested last weekend on charges of funding terrorism.
The Arab Human Rights Information Network said on its Web site Tuesday the group also demanded the release of all "prisoners of conscience" in Saudi Arabia.
The signatories strongly condemned the arrest of the 10 people, who were accused of allegedly collecting donations for turbulent areas, in clear reference to Iraq and the Palestinian territories.
The Web site said the Arab figures, who also represent Arab human and civil rights organizations, described in their petition those who were arrested as "well-known reformist figures known for advocating peaceful change and respect for basic freedoms" in Saudi Arabia. The detainees, they added, are also known for their "noble positions towards foreign occupation and the blockade on the Palestinian people."
The signatories said this was the first time Saudi authorities have cracked down on reformists since King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz assumed the throne of the oil-rich country two years ago. They warned the latest arrests constitute a "serious escalation against civil rights in the kingdom."
The Saudi authorities, which did not release the names of those arrested on Friday and Saturday in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, claimed the detainees were suspected of collecting funds for "terrorist activities" in turbulent areas in the region.